Exposure to wheat allergen and fungal α-amylase in the homes of bakers


Dr D. Heederik, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, University Utrecht, PO Box 80176, 3508 TD Utrecht, the Netherlands. E-mail: d.heederik@vet.uu.nl


Background Few data are available on exposure to occupational allergens in dwellings occupied by inhabitants with occupational exposure to allergens. In small bakeries working and living often takes place in the same building. It is possible that allergens from the bakery can be transported into the homes of the bakers, via the clothes or shoes of the baker.

Objective The aims of this study were to investigate exposure to occupational allergens, wheat and fungal α-amylase in the homes of bakers, and evaluate potential determinants of exposure. Sensitization in family members to occupational allergens was investigated in a small preliminary survey.

Methods Floor dust samples were collected in the homes of 34 bakers. Levels of wheat and fungal α-amylase allergens were determined in an extract of the dust samples. Blood samples were collected from bakers and their family members to determine the prevalence of sensitization to occupational allergens.

Results The concentration of wheat and α-amylase allergens ranged from 38.9 to 172.4 µgeq/m2 (GM), to 10.5–76.7 ngeq/m2 (GM). Higher levels of dust and allergens were measured when the house could be reached directly through the bakery, and in houses with textile floor covers. Higher concentrations were also measured when bakers brought their work clothes and shoes into the house and when textiles from the bakery were laundered at home. Some family members appeared to be sensitized to wheat flour and α-amylase, but it cannot be excluded that they became sensitized because of their incidental presence in the bakery.

Conclusions Occupational allergens can be found in house dust from the homes of bakers and levels are associated with hygienic behaviour and distance to the bakery.